Q. Meeko, one of our three Dachshunds, always barks at our domestic worker who has been with us for five years. What can we do to discourage this excessive barking? Is there something we can do to make him more comfortable around her?
A. I would suggest that every time your domestic worker comes into contact with Meeko, she gives him a treat – something like a nice cookie or even a piece of biltong. You can even use a specific treat that only the domestic gives him. You might find that Meeko might be a bit wary to approach her, so I would suggest that she gently throws the treat towards him. Every time he enters the room or she enters the room, she should give him a treat. As he gains confidence in her she can make the distance shorter until he is willing to come and take the treat from her hand. This method teaches Meeko that hands are good and he learns that she is indeed very nice and always has something yummy in her pocket for him. This will help him learn to trust her.
I would suggest that you reward Meeko for being happy and calm in any new experiences so that he can gain confidence. He will learn that if he is well behaved, he gets a treat – which is much more rewarding than barking!
Good luck with this exercise and remember to always set Meeko up for success, so don’t go too quickly, keep the steps basic and easy.
Alexandra King, Heavenly Best Friends (ThinkingPets)
Q. My puppy had parvovirus when he was eight weeks old. The vet managed to pull him through and he has recovered, but will he grow to his full size or will he suffer some consequences for the rest of his life (such as inhibition of bone or muscle growth)?
A. It depends on how ill the puppy was and if there was secondary damage to organs such as the kidneys, liver or other organs. Usually most puppies recover fully if they survive parvovirus. They also have a very strong immunity against the disease and should not contract it again. Some medications can inhibit bone growth and cause damage to immature cartilage which can lead to problems later in life, but vets try to stay away from those medications. The puppies who survive might take a while (weeks to a few months) to get their condition back, but eventually their bodies recover fully. Recovery should be good if you feed the dog on a high quality puppy diet. If the puppy’s system was severely toxic during the course of the disease infection can spread to bones, especially those of the spine, and cause a condition called discospondylitis. This causes severe back pain and can be diagnosed with an x-ray. Luckily, this incidence is quite rare, but it is difficult and expensive to treat when present.
Dr Leon Loots, Bloemfontein